Full TitlePlayFam - Plug n' Play: Exploring Asymmetry and Modularity for Inclusive Game Design
This proposal (PlayFam) seeks to establish a comprehensive framework for the design of inclusive digital games through modular, asymmetric game design, enabling heterogeneous groups (e.g. families, mixed-ability groups) to play together, regardless of the constraints they face to gaming. Digital games have become a widely accepted form of entertainment and an important part of social life. Within families, it can reinforce bonds, originating conversational topics and shared experiences. However, games are typically designed for a specific target audience, with a narrowly defined set of expectations that are placed on players (e.g. sighted strategy gamer). For families, where abilities, motivations, availability, and other constraints vary widely, it leads to limited opportunities for shared play between parents and children. While one could argue there is a game for everyone, there is definitely no game for every group of people that wish to play together regardless of their constraints. In this project, we will explore how to decouple the gameplay experience to cater to different sets of constraints simultaneously, while maintaining the benefits of shared play. The approach is inspired by ability-based design where there is a shift from “what can everyone do?” to “what can a person do?”, emphasizing individual abilities, rather than their limitations/disabilities.
For game design, we can start to envision asymmetric experiences that go beyond abilities and cater to complex sets constraints. We believe there is untapped potential in exploring new ways of decoupling the gameplay experience by leveraging asymmetry, asynchrony, modularity, and shared gameplay loops in the pursuit of creating inclusive games. We propose Plug n’ Play Game Design (PuP), in which one creates a core shared gameplay loop interconnected with modular roles that are designed to cater to individual constraints through asymmetric gameplay. PlayFam will be centered on families, a typically heterogeneous group with highly disparate sets of constraints. PlayFam’s ultimate goal is to enable any two or more people to play together. The project will culminate in a comprehensive framework that has the potential to impact how inclusive game design is approached, informing the work of researchers (e.g., to explore wider benefits of shared play) and designers/developers in industry wishing to design games that bring different players together.